This past weekend, four of us rented a car and headed south in the north island for a long weekend adventure. We had Friday classes off for Anzac day and decided to make the best of it. NZ has some Great Walks, that are well maintained and the most famous tramps in the country. One of these is on water. Its a 5 day canoe trip along the Wanganui River for 145km. Since we didn’t have five days, we did a shorter 3 day version of the most scenic part of the river.
We got to our destination Thursday night so that we could get an early start on Friday morning. Since we had tents we just set up camp in the front yard of the car park at the canoe rental shop. It was a cooooold night. At about 7 the next morning we started getting ready and packing our food and gear into watertight canisters, which were provided by the canoe rental shop along with the two canoes. They loaded us along with 4 other groups of people into a bus with canoes in tow and drove us down to Wades Landing in Whakahoro (‘wh’ in Maori makes an ‘f’ sound pronounced FAK – A – WHOR’O say it out loud). The weather was beautiful all weekend. Not too hot, but not cold enough for warm clothes. The camp sites were spaced apart about every two hours. This is the best way to navigate time, since there are few landmarks on the river that appear on a map. We arrived at our destination John Coull camp that evening at about 5pm after 6 hours on the river with a break for lunch. When I planned this trip, I didn’t realize that Anzac weekend was such a busy time for tramping/canoeing. The hut was overflowing with people and our tents were packed into the camp site like sardines. That night we made a pretty big dinner with my camp stove. Pasta, sausages, and home fries. One of the advantages of a canoe trip is that you can over pack since you don’t have to carry anything on your back. I can’t ever imagine taking a sack of potatoes on a tramping trip. That night was warm compared to the previous night and all of us slept like rocks.
The next morning, by the time we got up, all 80+ people at the camp site were gone. I guess they wanted to make it farther that day to prevent crowded campsites. Oh well, we took our time and make pancakes for breakfast. We got on the river at around 9:30. It was a nice day. We had a few rapids that day, but nothing more than just moving water. Everyone claimed that they saw a dead sheep in the river, but I am still sceptical. The day was much like the day before, with a 6 hour paddle and lunch in the middle somewhere. Towards dusk, we saw some mountain goats grazing along the river’s edge. We set up camp that night at Tieke Marae. It was much less crowded than the previous night and much warmer. After some star gazing, we all fell asleep pretty early with full stomachs and sore muscles.
The last day’s journey was much shorter than the previous days, but we got an early start. The bus was to pick us up at Pipriki at 2:30. The day was to have some rain and large rapids, so we were prepared to get wet. Luckily the weather held up until we finally got into the bus. About 2.5 hours into the day, we came across the first set of big rapids. a lot of canoes were docked and watching as people came through. Every other canoe that went through tipped due to the size of the waves. The canoes would just get filled with water and couldn’t be controlled. Katie and I tipped, naturally. The water was cold and numbing. We managed to swim the boat to the edge and recover all of our belongings. I lost a pack towel and Katie lost a sandal (which was recovered 100m downstream). Natalie and Tom managed to make it through the rapid soaked, but right side up. Luckily the sun came out from behind the clouds to dry us up. The rest of the day we just cruised with the moving water and ended with smiles, appetites and a 5 hour drive back to Auckland.